By now, Missionary Care professionals have analyzed, debated, and initiated plans to care for their missionaries while they are displaced from their mission sites. We all understand that being taken away from one’s livelihood is difficult and potentially depressing. Displaced missionaries are being engaged in church activities such as teaching, preaching, and serving right here at home. Some may be using the talents they exploit on their sites right here at home to keep them serving. Some are certainly pressing on with the homeschooling of their children, and likely taking a few moments to get reacquainted with their passport country at a deeper level than they did the last time they visited – with the obvious exception of the restrictions caused by COVID-19.
Churches, families, and friends are likely working intentionally to help these missionaries take their mind off of the people on their sites, and supporting them by joining them in earnest prayer. Many missionaries are doing what they can remotely, utilizing technology to communicate, teach, advise, and direct as much as is possible. Some are simply out of touch with the people they serve and lead, even fearing that the work that has been done may be unraveling. And, being amazing supporters, their church families are assuring them that God is on the program and that because of Him their work will not return void.
As appropriate as are all of these activities; moving a missionary forward may be the best thing churches can do to help their missionaries emotionally and spiritually. It is either time to get back to the work or that time is just days away. Some of the sites your church supports will need to be reestablished, replenished, rebooted, and/or be reacquainted with your missionaries. This will require focused prayer, resources, planning, and teamwork. For some of your missionaries, the “re” work will be simple and they will slide smoothly back into their site. For others, the work is going to resemble that of when they began their missional journey. They may find that they need to reach out to all of their supporters to rekindle their relationships, to get the support flowing again. For others, they may need to develop new strategies for accomplishing the work they do at their site. Still, others may be either apprehensive or anxious to return to their site. They may need coaching to be sure they are moving at the right time, and at the right pace.
With all of this said, there is plenty of work that must be done now, to be sure no unnecessary delays will keep the sites from getting back up and serving. So below is a random list of some things church supporters can do to help your missionaries be ready to return to their mission sites.
- If you have not yet debriefed your missionaries, do so as soon as possible. They must release their anxieties (minor or major) now, so they can have the clarity of mind to begin identifying their next steps. (1 Peter 5:7, Proverbs 12:25, Philippians 4:6-8)
- Work with your missionary(s) to help them develop a strategy to re-establish their funding. (Philippians 2:4)
- Move your missionary from reporting mode to vision-sharing mode. By now your congregation is very appreciative of the work your missionary teams have done–now give your missionary time to get your congregation excited about the what’s next. This may help your missionary begin to vision-cast, which will help encourage them emotionally and help them connect spiritually to their impending return to the field. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Acts 18:9 & 16:9, Amos 3:3, Galatians 6:9)
- If you are part of your church’s MST (missionary support team) Help your missionary contact the MSTs from other supporting churches to be sure they are in a forward-looking mode on behalf of your missionary(s). Express your willingness to work in cooperation with your missionary’s other MSTs. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
- Start collecting the supplies and materials your missionary will need to take with them now. Spread the cost of these goods over time. (Proverbs 13:4, Proverbs 20:13)
- Begin planning for travel, housing (if not already established), and the delivery of materials and supplies. Your missionary doesn’t need to do all of this work as long as you are coordinating with them. (Galatians 6:2)
- Even as you are planning for your local efforts, be also hands-on in helping your missionaries assemble curriculum, develop lesson series, and build ministry strategy to get them well prepared. They will have plenty to do once they are back on-site to get things back up and running. (Proverbs 11:25)
- Work on your relationship with your missionaries. Many pastors and other church leaders have developed great friendships with their missionaries, but are weak as collaborators. The opposite is also true. Take this time to develop a well-rounded relationship with your teams. (1 Peter 3:8, Psalm 133:1)
- Once you have gotten your missionary(s) moving forward, continue to evaluate their emotional and spiritual preparedness, just as you did before their original deployment. (Philippians 4:6-7, Ephesians 6:13)
- For some missionaries, it may have already been determined that they will not return to their site. They will need your help in preparing for their next mission or ministry. (Isaiah 43:19, Isaiah 42:9, Proverbs 12:15)
Many of your missionaries are locked down with family members in your proximity and others are out of state. At some point, you may have to take the initiative to call them back to service. This does not mean calling them to your location, but getting them back in the groove of planning, preparing, and participating as the leaders or workers of your sites. Remember that much of the work of getting your missionary ready to return to their site is going to fall on you. The more you put off the preparation, the more frustration and anxiety will be associated with the return.
Most importantly, keeping your missionaries focused on their work boosts their confidence, assures them that the church continues to see the value of what they do, and helps them exchange their feelings of loss and grief for excitement and forward-thinking. So don’t delay – Reboot.
If you have any questions about how to get started or just want to talk about missionary care email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Painter – MAPC, MCM